Sagging and settling foundations can prove a real problem for builders and homeowners. Soil type, weather conditions and even the presence of tree roots can contribute to the problem. The weight of the home causes settling of the soil beneath it, which can lead to cracked walls, uneven or out of plumb interior surfaces, and doors or windows that don't shut properly. In extreme cases, cracked foundations and basement floors can lead to collapsed walls or other potentially deadly circumstances. Underpinning the foundation is one solution -- but if not done properly, it can cause problems as well.
Potential to Be Ineffective
Sometimes, underpinning does not solve the problem of a sagging foundation. Underpinning involves digging underneath the affected wall and pouring concrete pillars that should not move because they will be set deep enough that the ground underneath them will not settle. In some cases, it simply doesn't work, meaning the process will involve great cost but will produce no results.
Errors in the Process
If the correct grade and weight of concrete is not used in the process, the underpinning operation will fail. The concrete may not be strong enough to support the weight that it is meant to hold, and may crack unexpectedly, causing further rapid settling of the foundation. Alternately, the concrete, if not of the proper type, will be susceptible to moisture infiltration and other problems that will lead to the operation having to be done again later.
Partial Underpinning Issues
In many cases in the past, partial underpinning was seen as a solution -- underpinning just the walls that were settling, at a lower price than doing the whole foundation. This can be a problem because all surfaces must settle at the same rate to avoid problems, and underpinning one area while ignoring another may lead to new cracking and settling problems elsewhere in the home.
The proper methods for underpinning are not always understood by contractors who advertise the service, so faulty work can be done. It is important to select contractors who know what they are doing and who will do the job properly and completely the first time to avoid added costs and serious problems later on.
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